Recruitment of pelagic larval fishes to the nearshore environment is dependent on a suite of biological and physical processes operating at many spatial and temporal scales. Nearshore circulation processes associated with coastal upwelling are widely upheld as major determinants of year class strength for many rockfishes (Sebastes spp.), but the mechanism by which these processes drive recruitment is largely unknown. We used Standard Monitoring Units for the Recruitment of Fishes (SMURFs) to monitor recruitment of two rockfish complexes (Sebastes spp.) and cabezon (Scorpaenichthys marmoratus) from March to September of 2004 and 2005 at 3 sites along the central California coast. We examined the relationship between recruitment of these fishes and measurements of oceanographic variability associated with upwelling dynamics, including in situ water temperature, AVHRR sea surface temperature, the Bakun upwelling index, and an index of alongshore surface water transport. We found that rockfish comprising the KCGB complex (Sebastes atrovirens, Sebastes caurinus, Sebastes carnatus, Sebastes chrysomelas) recruit during early summer, while fishes of the BYO complex (Sebastes melanops, Sebastes flavidus, Sebastes serranoides), as well as cabezon recruit during late summer. Our results provide limited support for an association between the arrival of juvenile pelagic rockfish and cabezon to the nearshore environment and physical processes related to upwelling and relaxation. Beyond the limitations of our bimonthly sampling scheme, the lack of a clear pattern may be related to the near absence of upwelling–relaxation cycles along this stretch of coast during these two study periods. Moreover, the settlement and recruitment of nearshore fishes may be closely tied to processes occurring earlier in the larval stage.
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